The Cavaliers wasted little time this summer in fixing their terrible outside shooting, which cost them their playoff series, much to the delight of all Cleveland supporters.
Improved floor space and general teamwork on both ends of the court will enable Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen to stay in tighter defense to the basket, which will also improve their rebounding struggles. The Cavs' star power potential and core synergy were demonstrated during the playoffs and the previous season. What they lacked, though, was a solid ensemble of supporting players.
Cleveland used its non-taxpayer mid-level exemption to agree to a three-year, $25.5 million contract with Georges Niang in the first hours of free agency. The Cavs promptly concluded a 4-year, $65 million sign-and-trade agreement with the Miami Heat in order to acquire sharpshooter Max Strus, in addition to re-signing swingman Caris LeVert.
Following their first actions, the Cavaliers acquired Damian Jones and Ty Jerome, two players who won't play every night but will be a vital reserve in the event of injury. Most recently, on a one-year veteran minimum contract, 2016 NBA Champion Tristan Thompson returned to the Cavaliers. As of now, Strus appears to be the Cavaliers' most significant signing. His role as a 3-and-D wing—albeit an undersized one—should immediately benefit several Cavs.
In contrast, a lot of Cleveland's opponents in the Eastern Conference will have more questions than answers going into the upcoming season, which means that the Cavaliers' decisions will have an even greater bearing on their performance.
The Cavaliers made some improvements, but it's hard to ignore the possibility that there were better free agents out there. These free agents could turn out to be a severely lost chance for the Cavaliers per NBA Expert Picks, from the ones that got away to the ones who weren't even really mentioned as potential additions to Cleveland.
#1. Missed out on Grant William's sign-and-trade in favour of Max Strus
Forward Grant Williams of the Boston Celtics seemed a good fit for the Cavaliers before free agency. The Cavaliers might have been in a great position to sign Williams on the MLE or acquire him in a sign-and-trade if he had been on the move from Boston this summer.
Williams was a reliable starting and backup option for the Celtics at both forward positions thanks to his strong offensive skill set and outstanding interior and exterior defense. Williams averaged 6.2 points and shot 37.9 per cent from three-point range on 2.7 attempts per game during his four years with the Boston Celtics. In addition, he was one of Boston's primary defenders against the top forwards in the league.
Ultimately, Williams signed a sign-and-trade deal with the Dallas Mavericks, securing $54 million for the ensuing four years. The Mavericks dealt Reggie Bullock to the Celtics and Spurs in exchange for a few second-round picks. Williams' contract is smaller than Strus' and Niang's, so it's plausible the Cavaliers could have signed both players through sign-and-trade agreements or straight MLE deals.
Regretfully, Williams appeared to be just out of Cleveland's grasp, and it remains unclear if the Cavaliers had Williams on their short list of potential targets from the beginning. During a virtual media day that was uploaded to YouTube, Cavaliers President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman insisted that Strus was their top choice in free agency, implying that Williams was never really a primary priority.
It appears that you can't always make both deals work, even though it would have been ideal to have them both work. The Cavaliers appeared to be targeting a huge stretch before Williams exited the market.
#2. Missed out on the Naz Reid deal
Naz Reid, the backup big man for the Minnesota Timberwolves, attracted a lot of attention throughout the 2022–2023 regular season, and as free agency drew near, so did the league's interest in Reid. Reid was destined for a large contract after establishing himself as a superb inside defensive player and 3-point shooter.
Reid reportedly turned down a four-year, $63 million contract from the Cavaliers, which was comparable to Strus' contract. Reid instead decided to sign a three-year, $42 million contract with the T-Wolves.
It was a terrible mistake since Reid could have provided the Cavs with significant short- and long-term advantages on the floor. Unquestionably, Reid provides the Cavaliers with a strong bench squad that is versatile and has few weaknesses as a backup to Jarrett Allen. In the unlikely case, that the Cavaliers parted ways with Allen, Reid is a prime candidate to start as a center in the NBA.
It is anticipated that Niang will be able to play a similar role in Cleveland, albeit he will probably play almost exclusively at the four positions as opposed to the five. Furthermore, Niang's rebounding is significantly less effective than Reid's or Allen's.
In the Association, a consistent stretch five is hard to come by, so Reid's opportunity may not come along very often. It appeared that the Cavaliers were focusing on any forward who could shoot well from a distance, as this next free agency entered their radar later and escaped their notice.
#3. P.J. Washington could have been a great trade for the Cavaliers
After LaMelo Ball's injury woes, the Charlotte Hornets had a difficult season, but there were some bright spots. A number of their supporting cast members, like 6-foot-7-inch forward P.J. Washington, took advantage of the chance to show off their abilities.
This summer, Washington was a restricted free agent, which meant that the Hornets could match any offer made to him. Washington was unable to secure a contract and stayed unsigned for the first couple weeks of free agency.
The Cavaliers eventually became interested in Washington's circumstances and started discussions with Charlotte about a possible sign-and-trade. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers were unable to fairly satisfy Washington's and his agency's demands without giving up too much in return. Washington and his camp were aiming to finalize a deal worth an average of $20 per season.
Washington agreed to a three-season, $48 million contract deal with Charlotte. According to Spotrac, he will earn $16.8 million the next season, which is significantly less than what he had hoped to make this summer. Despite his ineligibility for trade until January 15, 2024, the Cavaliers may still be able to acquire Washington by the trade deadline given his reduced salary.
For the Cavs, though, Washington was currently a wasted opportunity. Ultimately, this free agent signed a relatively low contract elsewhere, despite the fact that he may have been a perfect veteran wing for Cleveland.
#4. The Cavaliers missed a hidden gem free agent in Josh Richardson
Not to mention, Josh Richardson could have turned into one of the Cavaliers' most unfortunate lost opportunities. Throughout the course of his eight-year career, Richardson has established himself as a model 3-and-D wing on every team he has played for.
Richardson most recently participated in 2022–23 as a player for the New Orleans Pelicans and the San Antonio Spurs. In 4.5 tries per game, he shot 36.5 per cent from beyond the arc and averaged 11.8 points. Richardson provides teams with a seasoned leader and a glue guy. His resolute defense and steady offensive play would have made him an ideal late addition for Cleveland.
Rather, Richardson signed a two-year veteran minimum contract with the Miami Heat. Cleveland had the financial wherewithal to have easily signed Richardson to a better deal than Miami this summer. Ty Jerome's contract with Cleveland was signed two days before Richardson joined the Heat. The Cavs could have given Richardson the entire BAE or divided their Bi-Annual Exception between the two players if they had been successful.
The Cavaliers would be remiss if they chose to overlook Richardson this summer, as the team would gain greatly from the experience of a seasoned wing.
In the end, the Cavs improved a lot this summer, and if their youthful core continues to develop, they should be well-positioned for a strong postseason run. Midway through the season, the Cavaliers can still make a deal to get closer to contention while they're at it.